Life member, special award recipient and AFLUA Hall of Fame member, JR as he is affectionately known, Jack Gray celebrates his ninetieth birthday on February 19. Not one to like the focus of attention on him he was a little bemused when we rang to wish him a happy birthday from all here at the association.
JR is still an active member of the association although he does not drive far these days he attends our X men luncheons at Mornington to keep in touch with all of his old umpiring mates. “Billy Terrill, Len Eddy, Gordon Watt and their wives are taking me out to lunch tomorrow, I think they want to get me drunk,” laughed JR this afternoon.
JR grew up in the depression in Melbourne and did what all kids did. Got home from school dropped his bag inside the door and ran outside to play footy or cricket, depending on the time of year. JR spent countless hours with his brothers Len and Don. Len also went on to umpire in the VFL. “I received my life membership in 1959 and he got his in 1960.”
JR spent nine years on the VFLUA executive committee as an executive member, assistant secretary and secretary. “I only had one year away from the VFL between 1949 and 1977 and that was the year after I retired in 1965 before I went onto the country observers panel.” JR finished his official duties as the Chairman of the VFL appointment board after the drawn grand final in 1977. “I remember walking across the MCG after the draw heading to the umpires rooms. We convened a meeting and by the time we walked into the rooms we had appointed the same umpires to the replay the next week. It saved us an extra night out,” quipped JR.
So was there a memorable match that stands out in your memory JR? “Des Healey was coach of Wodonga, following his days at Collingwood. They were playing Nth Albury in a normal home and away fixture. The crowd was huge, I remember asking the club boundary umpire why the large crowd only to be told it was going to be “on today”. When the Nth Albury full back was flattened well behind play and the crowd invaded the ground, I asked Des for his help only to be told I was in control and I was on my own.” When the game eventually restarted the culprit, an ex rugby player made the mistake of hitting another opponent later in the game. “I got him that time,” said JR.
Ever quick witted and always up for a chat we wish JR many happy returns for a very special day.